The Garden of the Lord

18 03 2013

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In the fifteenth chapter of John, Jesus paints a word picture.

It’s a picture of a garden, and this garden has a Gardener, and this Gardener has a Vine. Jesus often spoke in parables, but this time He tells us right up front that He is the Vine, and His Father is the Gardener. And His disciples? Us?

“You are the branches.”

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I’ve been thinking about this passage a lot. Thinking about gardens and vines and how we all seem to want to be that gorgeous flower that grows right at eye level, or the grape that makes the best wine, or the sweet fruit that everyone craves.

I’ve been thinking about the way we Christians pray God will raise us up — or, if not us, our children — to be great leaders in His church, and we feel like that’s a good and holy request. But how many of us are asking God to make us and our children sacramental souls — broken bread and poured out wine, to be crushed and used up for the sake of His kingdom?

And, if we are asking God to make us servants to the least, do we really mean it? Or, deep down, do we hold onto hope that this humbling of ourselves will prove to God He can trust us to be exalted? “I’ll grow here in the shadows for now, Lord, trusting You to thrust me into the light in Your timing.”

What if that timing never comes?

In my mind I see a vine that has no tendrils anchoring it to the fence, no leaves soaking up chlorophyll, no symmetry giving it balance. It’s an empty stalk except for a crowded mass of flowers all competing for the lime light — each one pushing, shoving, grasping to be biggest, brightest, most glorious. And all this one-sided weight threatens to topple the whole thing. It’s an absurd, grotesque picture.

We aren’t all created to be the brightest flower. But the brightest flowers need the support of all the vine’s parts to accomplish God’s purposes. And, to expand the metaphor, the Gardener has planted a whole garden to feed this grace-starved world, but each plant must be willing to do its bit.

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And I wonder, am I content to be an unexceptional onion or a hidden herb — gladly giving my all to whatever purpose the Gardener chooses — desiring only to please Him, even if no one ever notices me, gives me any credit, or remembers my name?

Or am I jealous and frustrated when I see this one rising to glorious heights or that one admired far and wide?

Am I striving so hard to be “more” or “other” that I fail to flourish where He has planted me?

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. . . . If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” John 15:4,6

In all my ambition to bear impressive fruit, am I in danger of severing myself from the one source of life?

There’s only one place to find peace, joy, and fruitfulness. In the vine.

And the truth is, those center-stage flowers whose lives look so bright and exciting? It’s not as easy and glamorous for them as I might imagine. Eugene Peterson wisely observed, “Everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” And then there’s another quote I really appreciate. I loved it when I first read it years ago in Reader’s Digest, and I came across it again recently. Jim Carrey (who is probably not on most people’s short list of deep theologians) said this:

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

Amen, Ace Ventura. Amen. The lime light has its own set of temptations and trials, and the saints God places there don’t need my envy or even my starstruck admiration. They need my prayers. They need me to be a strong tendril that holds them securely to the fence, or a broad leaf that offers them a bit of shade. They — like the rest of the church and the world — need me to abide in the vine.

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:8-11

Do I want to bear fruit that glorifies my Lord? I need to keep His commandments.

Do I want fullness of joy? I need to abide in Him, right here, where He has planted me.

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“Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

Francis Chan said, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” True success is simple. It’s abiding in the Vine and bearing fruit. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. Nothing that lasts. And every other appearance of success?

Our greatest fear should be finding our contentment in mere appearances.

“For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.” Isaiah 51:3

The world is a parched and comfortless wilderness, wasting away in the midst of empty pursuits, and we are the garden of the Lord. He plants us with purpose, with wisdom, and with love.

Prune us, good and loving Gardener, that we may flourish for You with fullness of joy, right here, in the place where we’ve been planted.

* * *

{Speaking of fruitfulness, please pray, friends! Our daughter-in-law, Sarah, is in early labor. By God’s grace, she, Luke, and Naomi should welcome baby Eliot into their family sometime tomorrow! Thank you so much for your prayers!}

Giving thanks in community (#727 – 744)

new life
every day ordained before there is one of them
friendship
the living Word of God
plans formed long ago
the armor of God
the privilege of intercession
sacramental souls
faith
laughter
sprouting seeds
warm afternoons
Naomi’s, “Hey you!”
dark-chocolate covered butter biscuits
chai with cream and sugar
hospitality
dancing

 


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24 responses

18 03 2013
Jody Lee Collins

Oh, Jeanne, this is stunning. As a gardener I appreciate the lovely photos and as a writier the analogy is perfect. I loved these lines, “And I wonder, am I content to be an unexceptional onion or a hidden herb — gladly giving my all to whatever purpose the Gardener chooses — desiring only to please Him, even if no one ever notices me, gives me any credit, or remembers my name?”
And the inclusion of the Jim Carrey-quote? perfect!

(best of luck to your family and the new baby on the way).

19 03 2013
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Jody! And thanks for the shout out on FB, too. xo

18 03 2013
Daniel Farrow

Jeanne. It seems like this is the theme God is speaking to His body right now. I’ve been studying it here at the International House of Prayer and our leader Mike Bickle has been speaking on it. I love how consistent Holy Spirit is in speaking to His people! 😀

19 03 2013
jeannedamoff

That is so encouraging, Daniel! Thanks for the confirmation.

19 03 2013
Daniel Farrow

You’re very welcome friend! I love it when God shows us how invested He is in having a relationship with us. Praise the Lord! 🙂

18 03 2013
Diana Trautwein

LOVELY, Jeanne. Thank you. I’ve found myself in the last week or so just trying to slow down a little tiny bit and say thank you for being able to do a load of laundry for my mom or to help her put together a few thank you notes she’s been wanting to send. To slow down and be grateful rather than in such a rush to get on to my own ‘important life’ There really is nothing more important in those moments than doing these small, loving things. I am praying for eyes to see more and more of those.

19 03 2013
jeannedamoff

Yes, Diana. Gratitude and eyes to see His gifts everywhere. Lord, grant it. Blessings on you and your dear mom. xo

18 03 2013
kingfisher

Such beautiful photos. And yes, there’s so much emphasis now on self-promotion and “doing great things for the Lord”. On several blogs I’ve read, “If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat.” Or, “If God has called you to do something, then you must be obedient even if it sounds impossible for you to do; you have to take the first step.”

Some of us have big dreams and hopes. But circumstances prevent us from “doing big things”. Maybe we are the more fortunate, that we CAN’T DO great things for Jesus. And so we must be content in our ordinary living and feeling like we’re stumbling along. We can accept his great love and generosity without an audience looking on. For he knows who we are and the intent of our hearts to please him.

Thank you for posting this.

19 03 2013
jeannedamoff

Thank you! And I think you’re right. May we learn to be truly content to live before an audience of One and to joyfully accept His love and generosity — not because we’ve earned it by “doing great things” but because our God is so very great. Love to you.

19 03 2013
deb colarossi

Yes this. Exactly. Amen beautiful beautiful Jeanne. And the photos…. be still my heart. xox
( and waiting on baby news ! )

19 03 2013
jeannedamoff

Thank you, dearest Deb. And we’re still waiting for baby! Labor was pretty slow until about an hour ago, but seems to have picked up. Prayers are appreciated!

19 03 2013
lschontos

The Lord has been speaking this over and over again to me Jeanne – but never more eloquently than in this post. I can’t think what to say to do it justice – just thank you.

19 03 2013
jeannedamoff

What you said is perfect. Love you, friend.

And thanks for praying! She’s been having contractions about ten minutes apart since yesterday afternoon, but they picked up about an hour ago. They left for the birth center not long ago, and I’m waiting for an update. I’ll post something when I hear! 🙂

27 03 2013
Simply Darlene

me too.

19 03 2013
lschontos

Oh – and praying for the little one and the family!

21 03 2013
jeannedamoff

Update: Eliot is here! Born at 4:02 AM, Wednesday, March 20. 7 lbs, 2 oz, 20 inches long. And beautiful! Prepare yourselves for lots of photos.

Mommy and baby are both well, and we are all overflowing with gratitude. Thank you so much for your prayers.

21 03 2013
Diana Trautwein

YAY!!! So glad s/he’s here. Welcome to your first boy. . . or is that name for a new girl?

21 03 2013
jeannedamoff

It’s a boy! 🙂

21 03 2013
tonia

You and I are hearing the same whispers of the Spirit, friend. I’m sitting here with you in friendship now, saying a word of prayer for all the things you have before you, the sorrows, the work, the joys, the unknown. You are a truly beautiful soul, Jeanne. Thank you, my kindred friend.

22 03 2013
jeannedamoff

Thank you so much, Tonia, for the friendship and the prayers. The thought of you holding these things before the Lord — holding me even I seek to hold this obedience — it’s a remarkable comfort that magnifies the beautiful mystery of the body of Christ. As of today we are officially transitioning into hospice care. God goes before. The one resounding prayer on my heart is that her final days are filled with Christ. Abide. Abide. Abide.

Love to you. Much love.

22 03 2013
Maria

Jeanne,
I came here to say that you are on my heart as I read about your mother’s return of cancer (from your comment on Study in Brown). I know a bit about what you must be going through, and sometimes it’s just good to know we are not alone in these things. My prayers are with you this hour… you and your sweet mother and father. Congratulations to you for your new grandchild! It seems a strange opposition… the deep sadness you feel surrounding your mother’s circumstances contrasted to the great happiness a new baby brings….. and yet that is the story He is writing.

Your writing in this post took me back many years to when I would take communion….. and for years this would happen… I would so succinctly hear the Lord beckoning me in my spirit, “Abide in Me”. I think maybe b/c I was a wild rose of sorts always twisting and turning in a strange discontentment and thinking more of my value in the garden than reality would dictate. These days I am more at peace with the true order of the garden and the taming that has come through His careful, loving (albeit painful) pruning.

Love and Blessings,
Maria

22 03 2013
jeannedamoff

Yes. Yes. That is the story He is writing. Thank you, Maria. What a gift your words and your prayers are to me today. And I love your communion story. How kind and patient our Lord is! I have to tell you, I can’t help but believe that Jesus takes special delight in His wild ones who learn to abide. So thankful with you that you learned to love His pruning.

Love to you, too.

27 03 2013
Simply Darlene

i want to be okay with being an onion, a little one, dirty, even.

(i’ve missed you and this place.)

when will you make a daily devotion book so i can hold your words, intermingled with His Word and His glorious creation, in my hands?

prayers of peace and strength for you and yours

blessings.

27 03 2013
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Darlene. I will be a dirty little onion right beside you. And thanks for wanting to hold my words daily. That’s such a dear compliment. Love you.

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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